As the produce in the garden multiplies, I am beginning to freeze veggies so we have plenty to enjoy during the cold winter months. The homegrown tomatoes will make wonderful pasta sauce this winter and the zucchini will be perfect in warm zucchini bread in January. Not only do I freeze produce, but I also freeze milk, cheese, meats and more. Following are some tips for freezing all kinds of foods and a list of items you probably don’t want to freeze.
Produce: One of the best ways to have healthy, frugal produce in the middle of winter is to freeze fruits and veggies when they are a great price. When February rolls around and tomatoes are $3.00/lb, you can just reach in your freezer and pull out some homegrown (or farmer’s market) produce that you froze in August for a fraction of the winter cost. Turn those frozen tomatoes into fabulous pasta sauce, salsa or pizza sauce. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables will soften with freezing and those with high water content (melons, lettuce) don’t freeze well at all.
Blanching produce: You will need to blanch (scald) most vegetables in boiling water before freezing to slow or stop the action of enzymes to retain flavor, color and texture. It’s an easy, but necessary process. Depending on the product, you can freeze many fruits and vegetables for up to 12 months.
Vegetables and fruits that freeze well: Artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, corn, eggplant, peas, peppers, raspberries, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini.
Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Animal products such as meat, poultry, fish and shellfish all freeze well if packaged and handled correctly. Depending on the product, they can freeze for up to 12 months. Click HERE for information on freezing meat, poultry and fish.
Dairy Products: Butter, hard and semi-hard cheeses, eggs, yogurt and milk can all be frozen successfully. I always freeze cheese in the original packaging and have had no issues. The cheese will have a somewhat crumbly texture when thawed but it is perfect for cooking needs. For specific instructions on freezing dairy products, click HERE and scroll halfway down the page.
How Long to Freeze Foods
Some foods are just not edible if frozen for years, so here are some basic guidelines for the length of time to freeze certain foods (from the National Center for Home Food Preservation).
Fruits and vegetables: 8-12 months
Poultry: 6-9 months
Fish: 3-6 months
Ground meat: 3-4 months
Stew Meat: 3 months
Steak: 9-12 months
Cured or processed meat: 1-2 months
Ice Cream: 1 month
Milk: 1-3 months
Cheese 3 months
What Not to Freeze
Here is a list of some foods that DO NOT freeze well. Most change enough in texture and taste that they become unappealing when thawed:
For even more information on canning and freezing fruits and vegetables, see PickYourOwn.org HERE.
It's time to start filling your freezer with all that fantastic and frugal summer produce so you can enjoy that homegrown flavor all year long! If you have any tips you would like to share for freezing or canning food, please post them. As I always say, it's your money - spend it wisely!